Beyond the Wall of Sleep

I have often wondered if the majority of mankind ever pause to reflect upon the occasionally titanic significance of dreams, and of the obscure world to which they belong. Whilst the greater number of our nocturnal visions are perhaps no more than faint and fantastic reflections of our waking experiences- Freud to the contrary with his puerile symbolism- there are still a certain remainder whose immundane and ethereal character permit of no ordinary interpretation, and whose vaguely exciting and disquieting effect suggests possible minute glimpses into a sphere of mental existence no less important than physical life, yet separated from that life by an all but impassable barrier.

So writes H.P. Lovecraft at the opening of his short story, Beyond the Wall of Sleep. I don’t sleep much anymore, finding that my nights bleed into the morning, at which point exhaustion overtakes me and my body shuts down for a few hours. Even then, it is only my body and not mind that finds rest – a combination of ideas, stresses and the overall feeling that I’m wasting life if I sleep too much tends to keep me active, even when at rest. I rarely have nightmares, though when I do they are truly horrific, and I’m convinced that many of the contents of my mind aren’t meant for human consumption. Likewise, rarely do I have dreams that are ‘normal,’ in the sense that I go about my usual physical life. The majority of my dreams are surreal and fantastic and often when I try to describe them later I simply have no words.

The more I read Lovecraft, the more convinced I am that he was like the majority of writers – he drew from his personal experiences in the great drama of life for his stories, and while others have suggested that he was a troubled man from a troubled family, I wonder if maybe his situation wasn’t something too terribly different from Joe Slater – that a higher intelligence was awake in his mind yet he never was able to reconcile the two, being able only to put pen to paper and give form to a formless thing through the power of the written word. Perhaps that was the reconciliation he sought, and was in fact the breach in that ‘all but impassable barrier.’


RIP, Brother

Quiet hast thou gone, friend, to thy eternal rest.
Thy working tools are silent now, after a life of labor and test.
Beneath the valley’s silent clods may you finally take your ease,
before the Great White Throne may you be granted peace.
Unspotted is the apron laid upon thy final bed,
go now, into the joys of the Lord, with which thou art surely bles’t.

A Love Affair

How callous ‘twould be if there were not pain in this moment of longing. But nay! No longing such as that of string and fret beneath mine hand have I known since before this night. And such a night! In the depth of winter the heavens cry and poureth forth their tears in joyous wonder at a flame lit in these darkest hours, these dread hours when dreams alight on shuttered brow; here a lowly fading spark catcheth and is given life anew. And here, in these hours, in a night when the heavens open and the rain falleth mine hands alight upon rosewood and nickel and embraceth the lady adorned; with loving remembrance softened fingers trace her delicate curves and glide along the smooth surface of her neck , renewing and sustaining what was, and what may yet be. Harsh is the bite that stingeth mine fingers, payment due for a long neglect, yet familiar the touch and the movements come and reward is soon tendered. And thus in self made agony is ecstacy gained and a love affair rekindled.

ZPAW Short

Oh my god that reeks! Molly thought as she slowly pushed the door ajar. Judging by the noxious blast of air that hit when she began pushing against the heavy metal door she assumed that the room had been pretty well sealed. There was definitely something pushed up against the other side of the door, but the overwhelming odor of decaying flesh that assaulted her caused her stop what she was doing. She started gagging as the stench infiltrated her airway and lungs, leaving the taste of death seared in her mouth and throat. She backed away, covering her mouth and nose with her bandana while trying to stifle her coughs. She couldn’t help but think that she’d never come across a smell this bad, even after her 20 or so summers in a world ruled by death and decay.

She barely remembered the Time Before. She was just a small child when the world changed, when the sun went cold and the dead started to walk. She carried with her vague memories of days spent running barefoot in green grass beneath a clear blue sky in the warmth of the sun, memories dotted with images of birthday cakes and candles, brightly colored bits of ribbon and laughing and smiling faces. There wasn’t much, if any of that in her world now.

Overcoming the fit of gagging and coughing, Molly composed herself, pulled a painter’s mask out of her pack and put it on, along with a pair of well-used goggles. She’d encountered the dead a lot – it was a fact of life – but she had never really been able to just get used to it. And now, with a smell that was so horrid it permeated her clothes, her mask, and even her skin, she prepared herself to have to deal with what was likely a relatively newly-made corpse. She just hoped that it really was dead.

Leaning her shoulder against the door and bracing her feet against a fallen beam she began to push. The door budged a little at first but as she pushed she could feel it budge just a little more. The stench of death became even stronger and more sickening as the gap between the door and the frame widened. Finally the door came to a stop, and as it did so there was the sickly sound of bones and flesh being broken and torn.

“Damn,” she muttered. Standing up straight and taking a breath Molly assessed her progress. The door was open just enough that her slight frame might be able to squeeze through if she dropped her pack. That was not something she wanted to do. But she needed to get in that room. It could have the valuable medicine she was looking for. She weighed her options a moment longer before making her decision.

Dropping her pack and setting it in a corner she readied her machete and a small flashlight and grabbed a smaller drawstring bag to use for whatever she could find. Turning the bright white beam of light to the doorway she peered into the darkness, straining to catch a glimpse of what might be in there. Light reflected off of polished metal cabinets, on which were strewn assorted medical implements.  Well, she thought, looks like there might be at least something of value in there. She paused a moment before taking a breath and sliding between the door and its frame. She moved slowly and carefully, taking care to make as little noise as possible as she squeezed through.

The stench was unbearable. Molly’s eyes were watering now, even with the minimal protection she had. She knew she would be able to stay in here very long. She swung the light around to the other side of the door where it illuminated a bloated and badly decayed corpse lay wedged between the door and the wall in a discombobulated heap of gore and guts. She relaxed a little when she realized that it was definitely dead, and not a zombie.

She turned her attention back to the rest of the room’s contents. Compared to the rest of the hospital this room looked to be a veritable jackpot. Everything else had been picked clean by previous scavengers, which prompted her to wonder why this room had been left alone. It had been 20 years since the apocalypse, so there had been more than enough time for survivors to come and go through here. It wasn’t until she had loaded up her bag with various medical items – gauze, tape, alcohol pads, a few instruments still sealed in their sterile packaging – that it occurred to her that the corpse was too fresh to have been here for 20 years, even if the room had been completely sealed somehow. Raising her machete she spun around in a moment of panic, aiming her light at the corpse; it hadn’t moved.

The hair on the back of her neck stood on end and a cold chill ran down her spine. All of her senses were suddenly hyper-sensitive and her eyes and ears strained to catch any sign of danger. A sudden peal of thunder rumbled through the hospital, causing her to jump. She could hear rain falling on the roof overhead. Great, she thought, now it’s raining out there.

Turning her attention back to the contents of the room Molly started shoving everything she could in her bag. I’ll sort through it later, when I’m in a more secure place. When her bag was full she squeezed back into the hallway where she left her pack and kneeled down to secure her new haul in it. Something crashed down the hallway, freezing her in mid-motion.

The Finer Things

A wisp of smoke, a sip of wine,
 a wheel turns, the clock unwinds.
For a moment the mind’s eye lives,
vices invoke and vices forgive.

In recent years I have begun to enjoy and really appreciate some of the ‘finer’ things in life – good cigars, good wine, good whiskey, good beer. I don’t know if it’s me moving into my ‘maturity’ (I say that very lightly) or if it’s simply the company I keep; I sure it’s a combination of these things, especially since my circle of friends hasn’t changed much in recent years. I suppose that there are some people who pursue these kinds of tastes as a measure of status, but I can honestly say that I enjoy them for what they are. I do like to think about enjoying a good cigar and glass of wine in a Victorian era sitting room while perusing a forgotten tome or engaging in deep conversation with peers. I’ve also taken to enjoying such things as part of my creative process. They’re relaxing and allow me to soft focus on life. Through the haze I find clarity.

The Grey

There is, I think, a certain peace to be found in a cold, rainy winter’s day.

Winter’s burden borne by water,
calm and cold it carries peace.
Grim and grey the grip of winter,
‘neath another night’s release.
Flame now flickers, flares and flashes,
settles and softens then soothes the day;
A world awakened by winter’s waning
must slumber still, waiting for sun’s rays.